Shakespeare 1 Molière 0: 'Linguistic treason' as France prepares to accept English teaching for university sciences
Higher education minister Geneviève Fioraso aims to make future French scientists better able to use international language of scientific research
The French language will finally concede defeat in its 1,000 years old war with English on the floor of the French parliament tomorrow.
The French minister for higher education, Geneviève Fioraso, will, according to her critics, propose the capitulation of the "language of Molière" before the all-conquering "language of Shakespeare".
Ms Fioraso will table a draft law that will allow the teaching of some scientific courses in French universities in the English language. The intention is to allow France to attract the best foreign students and make future generations of French scientists better able to speak, and write, the international language of scientific research.
Ms Fioraso's proposal has ignited a passionate debate in France, which has long tried to resist the linguistic imperialism of English. The Académie Française, which had been codifying and defending the French language since the 17th century, accused Ms Fioraso of linguistic treason. She was, the academy said, "favouring the marginalisation of our language".
Bernard Pivot, the veteran host of literary programmes on French television, said: "If we allow English to infiltrate our universities and become the sole means of describing science and the modern world… French will become a banal language, or worse, a dead one."
Ms Fioraso's supporters - including many senior French academics - say that her bill is an overdue recognition of reality. French is the eighth most spoken language in the world. English is the second most spoken, behind Chinese, but is globally recognised as the language of science.
In a letter in Le Monde, 12 leading scientific academics said: "The linguistic bunkerisation of our country… risks handicapping our young people, who have no need of further obstacles to international recognition".
Universities in Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia already offer much of their scientific teaching in English, the minister points out. If France fails to come in line, the best undergraduate and graduate students from Asia will be lost to France, and French scientists will be unable to talk the international language of science.
Ms Fioraso also accuses her critics, on both the right wing and left, of "gross hypocrisy". She points out that the elite institutions of higher education in France, the business schools and more scientific "grandes écoles" started offering courses in English years ago. Her proposal is part of a wider plan to upgrade the underfunded and unloved French university system and close the gap with the institutions which have traditionally trained the French governing elite.
The centre-left newspaper, Libération, entered the debate on her side yesterday, by publishing its entire front page in English. "Teaching in English. Let's do it" said the main headline.
Underneath, the newspaper carried a link to another story which was headlined, also in English: "Sex and condoms. The best is yet to come."
This referred to a story about a competition launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the US to invent a form of condom which would be easier to use and would give more sexual pleasure. Whether this counts as "scientific research" is unclear.
- 1 Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
- 2 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
Jennifer Lawrence: Leaked 4Chan sex video branded 'fake' by users
Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked next, threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...
£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...
£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Year 2 Teacher currently need...
£24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...